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[BEIJING] China has hit the top spot in a ranking of internationally indexed engineering publications, replacing the United States for the first time.

The 2008 Annual Report on China's Science and Technology (S&T) Papers, released this week (9 December) by the Institute of S&T Information of China (ISTIC), puts China at the top of 2007's list.

A total of 78,200 Chinese papers were included in the international Engineering Index (EI) — an indicator of papers in engineering fields — rising by 16.2 per cent from 2006. Chinese EI papers accounted for 19.6 per cent of worldwide output in the field.

Meanwhile, in the Science Citation Index (SCI) — the indicator for science publications — Chinese papers rose from a ranking of fifth to third in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom, and surpassing Germany and Japan.

China had 94,800 papers in the SCI, accounting for 7.5 per cent of the world's total.

The number of citations for Chinese papers is also increasing, although less than the growth in the number of publications. Between 1998 and 2008, the 570,000 Chinese papers indexed by SCI were cited 2.65 million times, putting China tenth globally — an increase from thirteenth last year.

"The increases indicate that China's S&T papers have improved in terms of both quantity and quality," said Wu Yishan, general engineer of ISTIC and author of the report at the launch.

International cooperation has contributed to the increase in China's publications. Among the country's 2007 SCI papers, 21.9 per cent are a result of international co-authorship.

The fields where China contributes the most internationally cited papers are chemistry, computer science and material science.

The country's fast economic growth has resulted in huge engineering research projects, which could explain the dramatic growth in papers indexed by EI, says Wang Dongjing, editor of the Chinese Journal of Construction Machinery.

"But their quality is still an issue. Many of China's EI papers are less than satisfactory," Wang told SciDev.Net.